Paul Nash sensed the metaphysical power of trees – how they ‘linked the underworld, the earth’s surface and the skies’.
|Pen and Ink drawing of Wittenham Clumps by Paul Nash|
Wittenham Clumps in Oxford always reminds me of the Wiltshire downs, soft and rounded, I think when you talk phenomenology, then old essays and paintings say so much more.
This thought is provoked by Jaquetta Hawkes words, there is an interminable argument about tunnelling under the landscape of Stonehenge, long or short bored tunnel, it will cost a great deal of money, stop the people from glimpsing it from the A303 road. Cause great upheaval of course, and what will it achieve but another blot on the landscape. Her words echo an earlier age when there were barracks at Amesbury for the soldiers in the first world war, as they stretched their buildings in such a neat manner over the turf of this great prehistoric landscape.
....As he reaches the quiet cross roads on the summit, he will be on the edge of one of the greatest, and certainly the richest, congregations of burial mounds in all Britain. Here was a kind of vast scattered cemetery on ground hallowed by its proximity to the renowned sanctuary. Barrows cluster round Stonehenge on all sides - three hundred of them - but here to the west is the greatest concentration and the area most sequestered from the blighting military activities of Amesbury......
When the ritual and whatever its accompaniment may have been of masks, effigies and offerings have vanished so long ago, when there is no stir of emotion and the ghost which keeps emotion alive, when the very people responsible for raising these mounds have been overwhelmed, absorbed and forgotten, then their detailed study can become lifeless enough. Better perhaps to look at them with knowledge but with knowledge unexpressed, these round barrows that are like the floating bubbles of events drowned in time."
Nash spent a lot of time painting the Wittenham Clumps in Oxfordshire, the soft plumped folds of the land are so different to his war paintings, when the trees stand stark and blackened under the horrors of war.
|War and its aftermath|
I saw this painting years ago at a local gallery, it confronted you as you went through the door of the gallery, it has the same heavy theme as his war paintings........ It reflects the world today, a darkening eclipse of war and elitism hangs like a shadow.
|The Eclipse of the Sun - Paul Nash|
Words taken from an earlier blog....
"Why did he choose this particular expression of the sun eclipsing the sunflower, he was coming to the end of his life, both through ill health and the war. For him the sunflower had many meanings, for instance the sunflower always follows the path of the sun, and in the classical myth Clytie was punished by her sister who turned her into a flower so that she 'turns with the sun and reflects its colour', and it was in the 19th century that it became the symbol for yearning or unrequited love. And of course an eclipsed sun-disc could also reflect the 'infernal calamity of a global conflict', So this painting represents Nash seeing himself as 'escaping into vast lonely places in complete freedom of bodily action, escaping the land but in death returning to it".